Foundations making ‘strong progress’ on climate-friendly investments, report finds

The UK’s biggest charitable foundations have made “strong progress” on work to address the climate crisis, according to research.

A survey of 70 foundations, conducted by the Association of Charitable Foundations, found that the number of organisations making progress toward a more environmentally-conscious investment strategy had doubled in the past 12 months, as had the number of foundations working to reduce their own carbon footprints.

But the paper also warns that foundations often treat work to address the climate crisis as something to include in their existing strategies, rather than a “fundamental challenge to the very core of [their] strategies”. 

ACF suggested this could change as the crisis grows in the years ahead.

The information is included in the second annual update of the Funder Commitment on Climate Change, which was launched in November 2019. 

Ninety-one foundations, including the Wolfson Foundation, Power to Change and Carnegie UK, have signed up to the commitments and pledged to take action such as putting more resources into climate change work and managing their investments “for a post-carbon future”.

The number of foundations that reported “making some progress” on their investment strategy more than doubled from 14 to 31 in the past year, the report says, while the number saying the same thing about reducing their own carbon footprint rose from 18 to 40.

The growing focus on investment comes after a high court judgment last month, which will give charities greater freedom to pursue social outcomes over financial returns.

Foundations have made “strong progress over the last year”, the ACF paper says.

Joanna Pienkowska, senior policy and engagement officer at the ACF, said: “We have consistently said that climate change is an issue for all foundations and funders.

“Given the range of its impacts, it is a health issue, a gender equality issue, a racial and social justice issue, an intergenerational issue, an economic issue and an issue for local communities.” 

Foundations were using the commitment “as a framework to develop their own thinking and actions on climate change”, she said. 

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